Where did you grow up? Talk us through your schooling, education, experience abroad and so forth.
I was born in New Zealand and grew up there, but both of my parents are Chinese. When I was about 11, I moved to Australia. I started university when I was 16 and in my first year, I began doing some work experience for a small family firm. The next year, I started working at a mid-tier firm as a law clerk. I went to Beijing at the end of that year and was fortunate to get some international experience in a large Chinese law firm. Over the next two years, I juggled university with a couple of days a week working as a law clerk. At the end of the fourth year, I was very fortunate to get to interview for a paralegal position at KWM and that’s where I stayed until I graduated. In my last year, I also spent some time as a student volunteer at a community legal centre. Following graduation, I went on a two-and-a-half-month trip around China and Western Europe, which was a lot of fun and much needed after such a long degree!
How did you get to your current job position? For how long have you had it?
I first started at KWM in 2015 as a paralegal and worked a few days a week while I was studying. From there I applied for the seasonal clerkship and completed the winter clerkship in 2016. At the beginning of the next year, I received a graduate offer. I remember the day that offers came out; I was very nervous and trying not to overthink things, but I was absolutely overjoyed (and relieved) when I got the call-up. I started the graduate program at KWM in February this year and was admitted as a solicitor in October.
How did you choose your specialisation? Were you weighing up any other alternatives before choosing this specialisation?
I was aware of KWM’s stand-out reputation during university and was particularly drawn to the strength of the firm’s transactional and cross-border practices. During my time as a paralegal and clerk, I worked with some great people and really liked the culture of the firm, so at the end of the process I knew this was the firm I wanted to work at.
What was your interview process like? What kind of questions were you asked?
My interviews were fairly conversational. I think the interviewers just wanted to get to know me as a person to see whether I was a good fit for the firm. I was asked about a couple of items of interest on my CV, which was a really great opportunity to talk to my strengths. I was also asked a few behavioural questions (nothing that you wouldn’t have prepared for already beforehand).
Suppose a student was considering your career. What would you advise them to study? Are there any soft skills it would be beneficial for them to develop? Should they pursue any sort of work experience?
If you’re studying law, upon graduating you’ll need to complete a practical legal training course in order to be admitted as a lawyer. If you start with KWM as a graduate, the firm will provide you with financial support and time off to study. Attention to detail is a very important skill to have, especially as a junior lawyer. The legal profession is also very people-oriented (whether in relation to clients or colleagues), so to that end, it’s very important to develop good communication skills and to be able to work well in a team.
I would strongly encourage pursuing any kind of work experience you can get your hands on during university. As many students are aware, the graduate job market is very competitive. Having some work experience looks great on your CV and prepares you for working in a professional environment. It also gives you an idea of what to expect ahead of time to help you decide whether this is really what you want to do.
What does your employer do?
King & Wood Mallesons is a full-service, top-tier, commercial law firm headquartered in Hong Kong, with offices across Australia, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North America. Our offices have a number of market-leading practice teams including Banking & Finance, Dispute Resolution, Mergers & Acquisitions, Projects & Real Estate and Taxation.
What sort of person succeeds in your career?
I would say a successful lawyer is someone that has strong technical skills, is good with people, is adaptable and is willing to help others.
What are the career prospects with your job? Where could you or others in your position go from here?
There are many different pathways you can take. Some people will work in law firms; others stay within the industry but go in-house, into the public sector, or to the bar. Some people go into completely different industries. For pretty much all of these pathways, there are also plenty of opportunities to work overseas.
What do you love the most about your job? Which kind of task do you enjoy the most?
What I love most about my job is the amazing opportunities I am afforded as a junior lawyer. Because of KWM’s reputation, size and reach, I have had the opportunity to travel and work with some brilliant lawyers on interesting and complex matters, sometimes spanning multiple jurisdictions. Equally, the firm strongly encourages and supports us to get involved in a variety of pro bono, industry and interest-based projects outside of our day-to-day work. This is really important to me, and I think it has definitely made my experience more rewarding.
What’s the biggest limitation of your job? Do you bear a lot of responsibility? Do you have to work on weekends? Are the stress levels high?
Time is the biggest limitation. There’s only so much time in a day, which means that you can’t take on every opportunity that comes your way, no matter how much you want to. Responsibility comes with trust. I have been given more responsibility over time, which is both challenging and rewarding. I wouldn’t say my stress levels are consistently high; only when the pressure of a big transaction is on – but that’s partly why it’s exciting too!
What would your career be if you weren’t doing what you’re doing now?
There are a lot of bankers in my family so that’s probably the route I would have taken if I wasn’t in law.
Which three pieces of advice would you give to a current university student?